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Has Covid-19 been the idea generator that entrepreneurs have been looking for?

Entrepreneurs 04-11-2020

The pandemic has been a massive shake-up for businesses. In order to survive and flourish, many businesses have had to redirect their focus, pivot into new areas, and even start something completely new.

“In many circumstances, Covid-19 has been a motivator for businesses,” says Rebecca Burford, Partner at Charles Russell Speechlys (CRS). “The pandemic has forced businesses to look at how they do things – both internally and externally. From how they communicate with staff to how to function remotely.”

Rebecca also spoke about businesses having to revisit their go-to-market strategy and sales channels to ensure a continued stream of sales. She comments: “Without Covid-19, some businesses might have rested on their laurels and wouldn’t have therefore looked at diversification opportunities and ways to increase their revenue.”

“For individuals with an entrepreneurial spirit, the pandemic has presented a number of opportunities” she adds. “It has been very challenging for the majority of businesses, but with the right attitude, you tend to spot the opportunities and know how to fully leverage these with the right contacts and/or financial investment.”

AWM speaks to two entrepreneurs to who have maximised their potential during the pandemic

Anish Bhatt, WatchAnish

Luxury media specialist Anish Bhatt, Director of WatchAnish advises brands on how to launch, maintain and develop their foothold into the luxury watch and lifestyle sectors.

Like others, Anish has had to adapt his business model since Covid-19 hit.

“Meeting people in person, being approachable and available is a huge part of the appeal behind WatchAnish,’ he says. “Pre-Covid-19, meeting and greeting followers of the luxury watch and lifestyle sectors through various events was something we just did.”

With travel no longer an option, Anish was grounded, locked out of his home country of Cyprus for three months. “During this period, there was an entire step change in peoples’ appetite for luxury items. On a business level, marketing strategies, campaigns and product launches which we had worked on for months just fell away. Brands were too nervous to invest in new products.”

Anish decided to reach out to clients to consult on how WatchAnish could help to keep their brands relevant and in touch with the mood of their interest groups, ultimately focusing on how to turn the crisis into something more positive.

On his return to Cyprus, WatchAnish noted audiences were craving some respite from endless video meetings. So he focused on providing some lighter entertainment through the #Chooseday campaign which allowed WatchAnish to communicate about a variety of luxury items in a digital context, without needing to have the actual item in hand, using a bit of tongue in cheek to make it fun.

Traditionally the watch sector has always been retail focused, but during the lock-down period Anish finalised a collaboration with online retailer, eBay. “What Covid-19 pointed out is despite the immediate gratification we might get from touching and feeling purchases, the times we live in means this is not always possible. Working with eBay highlights that people can still get hold of certain pieces from their lockdown armchair and buy with confidence.”

WatchAnish has also taken the opportunity to diversify into other lifestyle products and services, including partnering with Ultima Collection, a luxury hotel and residence group that focuses on exclusive short term holiday rentals.

“The hotel and tourism sector has taken a huge hit but there has been an upsurge in people looking for “truly exclusive” properties which are not so far flung and away from crowds. Subsequently, they have seen a huge spike in new and returning high net worth clients wishing to stay in their private residences with full hotel type services.”

Shika Bodani, Front Row

Shika Bodani is founder of Front Row, a luxury-on-loan platform for designer clothing and accessories straight from off runway of the world’s most coveted designer brands including Chanel, Elie Saab and Dior.

“Covid has been a journey on the business and home front. There have been challenges and triumphs,” says Shika. “As far as possible I continue to look for the silver linings, and any hurdles become life lessons.”

At the onset of lockdown, Front Row used the period to challenge the traditional retail industry, and launched an online sale which proved to be extremely popular.

“As we navigated through these uncertain times, we remained fully committed to our mission of connecting our clients to the fashion they love,” she says. “We introduced online styling services, contactless pick-up and a try-at-home service. We also put additional cleaning steps in place to reduce the possibility of any potential transmission of the virus.

“We used this period to refine and review our pricing model, she adds.  “The rental model is easily applied to the luxury market…luxury clothing and accessories often have high value but low usage. The crisis has shown the prevalence and success of subscription-based models for e-platform businesses. We aim to be the pioneers of this by introducing a subscription-based model for our luxury accessories and handbags.

Shika says that the pandemic has further polarised views around materialism, over-consumption and sustainability. “The rental model appeals to a more sustainably-minded generation and offers benefits to both consumers and brands. I believe we will see more growth in the area, and we hope to work alongside the designer brands to be a marketing partner, informing potential new customers about the brand, how to wear it and where to purchase it.

“The past few months have granted some of us with the rare opportunity to spend time with our families and to really capitalise on working from home, being able to cut out all the time we build in for travel and commuting, to actually work smarter.”

Making the most of an opportunity

In order for businesses to survive during a crisis, they need to explore as many opportunities as possible and work out how to leverage them in order to gain market advantage.

“Business owners need to be proactive when it comes to seeking professional advice, and do so at the earliest possible stage. Burying one’s head in the sand is not advisable,” says Rebecca. “It can be easy to do nothing, but things will eventually feel so overwhelming that it almost causes inertia. Although this is worst case scenario.”

Businesses also need to make the most of any support that might be available to them. Rebecca explains that CRS ran a number of rapid response units during the crisis. “We took the time to understand the key issues that our clients were concerned about and worked to get the right specialists on a call with them. Whether it was issues relating to their lease, workforce, health & safety concerns, and so on, we were able to present a number of potential solutions.”

“The Government introduced a number of schemes to help businesses during the pandemic – for smaller entrepreneurs through to larger businesses. Businesses should also look to speak to other relevant third parties and it is often the case that unexpected things come out of such conversations. We always try to pair our clients with other contacts of ours, which may prove useful to their business in the short- and long-term.”

It is not always easy to digest the Government-led schemes and wider support that might be available, but we have helped a number of our clients navigate Government help and the various grants that might be available, and we are always happy to have a conversation with anyone who is unsure of what to do next as a business.”

For more help on the support that might be available, contact Rebecca Burford at Charles Russell Speechlys on [email protected]

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